Witham people from 1793 to 1837, in Directories

Using Directories

On the right is a photo of a Directory for 1937. It contains information for four counties including Essex (usually there is just one county). It’s impressive but rather forbidding. So I’ll start by trying to explain how you can best use directories of many years to find Witham people, together with their dates and their occupations.

A single year’s edition can give you some help, but we have combined and knitted together thirty separate years.  Phil Gyford  is responsible for the brainwork, and especially for the magic in the next section.

Beforehand, a few points that are worth remembering. To carry out the procedure for other places than Witham, someone would have to compile a different long main list or table. The names in the resulting lists are in alphabetical order of surname, for instance within all the “L”s. The people in directories were mostly the ones with their own businesses or houses. Street numbers were not used until the 1920s. Other names for directories include “Kelly’s directory”, “Trade directory” many of them. Or “historical directory” by modern users.


The names from Witham are hidden away in a very long table. I hope that this first note will help you get to the name you want. To do this:
EITHER:    (a)
type the surname you are looking for into a search box anywhere in the website.
Suppose you’re looking for Dr Gimson, you’ll type in “Gimson” and the results will include the following  entry, with a G at the end:
“People in Witham Directories -1793 to 1937  G”.
If you click on that entry, you will go straight to the part of the table with all the “G”s . They will be presented in alphabetical order within the Gs.

OR:              (b) go to the blue alphabet at the top or bottom of the page, click the blue initial which begins the surname you are looking for. Then you’ll see all the entries starting with that same letter, or as many as you get on a very large page. For instance, below is part of the result of a search for the letter “L”

Kelly 1882 Ledger, Wm. coal merchant, Maldon rd
Kelly 1886 Ledger, William, coal & wine & spirit merchant, Maldon road
Kelly 1933 Lee, Reginald Herbert, Marlowe, Collingwood road
Kelly 1937 Lee, Reginald Herbert, Marlowe, Collingwood road
Kelly 1937 Lees, Stanley Francis, Witham house, High street
Kelly 1870 Leigh, Herbert, J.P. Avenue house
Kelly 1874 Leigh, Herbert, J.P. Elm cottage
Post Office 1845 Lemon, John, farmer, Chipping Hill
White 1848 Lemon, John, farmer, Elm Farm
Pigot 1823 Lemon, Samuel, boot and shoe maker
Pigot 1826 Lemon, Samuel, boot and shoe maker
Pigot 1839 Lemon, Samuel, boot and shoemaker, Witham
Kelly 1870 Lennard, H. A. (Mrs.), fancy repository Chipping hill
Kelly 1874 Lennard, H. A. (Mrs.), fancy repository
Kelly 1878 Lennard, H. A. (Mrs.), fancy repository
Kelly 1917 Lenney, David, White Horse P.H
Kelly 1922 Lenney, David, White Horse P.H.
Kelly 1906 Lennon, John, supt. County police

This might seem to have been a complicated procedure, but it’s brief and efficient compared to starting with an individual volume. I’m about to use it myself for an essay about Witham Toown Hall.

To identify someone in all these original directories, would entail taking each of the thirty large volumes, and separating the Witham sections. Then the tricky part would be to identifiy a person in all those sections, and match them up with each other. Virtually impossible.

But the problem has been solved by the two tricks described described at the beginning..